I want to start this off by saying I am by no means an expert on Torres del Paine, but in January I did a fair bit of research (actually my buddy Anton did most of it), we attended an informational meeting and then took to the mountains. Below you will find an account of what to expect while trekking the W as well as prices, tour prices, and some tips and tricks we picked up. There is also a link to a video I created while on the trail. Enjoy!
"The W", West to East. (W not the O, not the Q)
5 days, 4 nights
Around 85-100km depending on extras
1: Paine Grande to Refugio Grey, stay the night here (3.5 hours + 2 hours for optional lookout points)
2:Refugio Grey to Campamento Italiano. Free camp site. 7 hours
3:Italiano to Brittanico, return, pick up gear, trek to Frances (I would suggest skipping Frances and going to Refugio Cuerno’s, I’ll explain later).
4: Frances (or Cuernos) to Campamento Torres (drop gear), then to Mirador Torre
5: Campamento Torres to Hosteria Las Torres and bus (or walk) back to Laguna Marga for the 2:30 bus back to Puerto Natales.
18,000 Pesos for Park Entrance, 15,000 Pesos for boat to Paine Grande, 12-20,000 Pesos for Return bus trip to Puerto Natales, 2,800 Pesos for mini-bus to Laguna Marga (or from Marga to Hysteria Torres). If you are going to camp, the paid campsites are 6,000 pesos per person (in my route you have Refugio Grey and Cuernos, 12,000 pesos total/ person).
About 62,800 Pesos or $90-ish. Make sure you have enough PESOS!
-Bus from Puerto Natales at 7:30 (or 7:50)
-The bus takes 3 hours and stops once halfway for coffee/bathroom
-12-18,000 Chilean Pesos or about $20-25
-Stop at Lago Marga to watch a 5 minute video and pay for park entry
-Stop, fill out a form, register for free camp sites, watch video.
-18,000 Chilean Pesos or about $25 (must be paid in cash)
-Option to take minibus into Hosteria las Torres for 2,800 Pesos ($4) or walk into the park (7.5 km takes about 2 hours) It’s not the most scenic walk and your being passed by cars and busses pretty regularly. This would be to start from East to West or to start the Q or O from the Torres/Camp Serron side.
-Otherwise, continue on bus to Lago Pehoe and take the 12:00 pm boat over to Refugio Paine Grande. Cost 15,000 Chilean pesos ($20), CASH ONLY,
-Arrive at Paine Grande at 12:30ish. (Optional: drop gear and do a 22km return trek to Grey, but there is no real benefit other than not carrying gear..but you’re trekking, suck it up and stay up at Grey!)
-Hike for 4-ish hours or 11km to Refugio Grey (a “mirador” or viewing point is 10 minutes from here, or you can hike for another hour with no gear to cross suspension bridges and get a view from above Grey Glacier… worth it!)
-Cook, eat oreos, make friends, get some sleep.
NOTE: This end of the park caught on fire in 2008 or something, so there is a lack of lush vegetation, but it only gets better after the glacier!
-Wake up, eat, pack up and get ready for a beautiful day!
Return from Grey to Paine Grande (11km, 3 ish hours) with some snack breaks and a little lunch break.
-Paine Grande to Campamento Italiano (7km, 3 hours ish) Here you pass through a deadwood forest and hike along a couple of beautiful lakes until you reach a powerful river and a bridge to Italiano!
Set up camp, lay by the river, cook, eat Oreos, make friends, get some sleep.
-Wake up, pack up, eat breakfast, drop your bag by the check-in office and take a day pack for a beautiful hike up to no-longer functioning camp “Brittanico”.
-This is about 5 hours to get there and back to your gear. You pass Mirador Frances to get a view of Glacier del Frances, the hanging glacier. (means that there is a glacier frozen off the edge of a mountain, you can hear and if you’re lucky even see car/house size pieces of ice explode when they fall from the cliffs to their demise hundreds of meters below!)
-Continue to Brittanico, catch the back side of the Torres, and a beautiful view of some sheer granite peaks. This is the first place that we experienced how fast the weather can change from beautiful and sunny, to windy and then to rain in less than 5 mins. BE PREPARED every day.
-Return to Italiano, grab your pack, and make your way to Frances (30 mins, wooden platform camping still under construction as of Jan 2015) or onto the larger and more accommodating Refugio Cuernos which is another hour past Frances.
-Set up camp, cook, shower, eat Oreos, have a beer, make friends, get some sleep!
Day 4-BIG DAY!
-Wake up early! It is worth it to be one of the first ones on the trail to take in tranquility and sights, because it will get busy in the later morning/afternoon.
-Eat, pack up, and kick rocks en route to Campamento Torres (I’m going to say this is about 20km day, but there’s a shortcut so I have no idea takes about 9-11 hours, but we made it in just under 8).
-Head out, TAKE THE SHORTCUT to Cuerno’s, unless you want to go down to Hosteria Torres and make your life much more difficult!
-Cross the ridge line (and lots of people) en route to Refugio Chilleno (last chance for snickers/oreos and beers.. buy all three, twice).
-Hike for 1 more hour and get to Campamento Torres, set up camp, have a snack (you should have probably had “lunch” well before this).
-Grab a day pack and drag your body up the 1km, 45mins-1 hour “climb” to Mirador Torres, always good to take a couple of chances incase the weather sucks.
-Arrive at the Torres, drink that hard earned beer (or box wine…), high five your friends, eat that victory Snickers and hang out until you want to return to camp and drink your other beer (or liter of box wine).
Tip: if you start the day early you can get to the Torres by 4 pm and enjoy some relaxation up there and still get plenty of sleep before the return trip!.
Day 5- The Grand Finale!
-3:30am wake up alarm. Damn, it’s early, but this is your only opportunity to see the Torres at sunrise, GET UP! (Check with the registration at Torres the night before to see what time sunrise is, it was 5am for us Jan 7, 2015).
-Throw your sleeping bag in your pack and warm clothes and drag your half awake self up the mountain.
-Arrive at the Torres, find a big slab and roll that bag out, climb in and enjoy the sunrise in comfort. (also a good time for snickers #2, while watching other people doing jumping jacks, etc. to keep warm.)
-Make your way down whenever you’ve “had enough”
-Cook, pack up, leave camp by 10 am if you’re going to walk all the way to Laguna Marga or at the latest 11 am to give yourself time to grab a bite to eat at the bottom and give your feet a break (the final descent is knee wrecking steep, consider yourself warned!)
-Arrive at Laguna Marga, eat Oreos, board the bus, pass out for a couple of hours, arrive in Puerto Natales and do your Laundry! (cheaper here than most places).
-Shower and finish it off with pizza and beer at the bar and Restaurant “Base Camp” to reminisce and see how long you can keep your eyes open.
TIPS & Tricks!
- Go to the free informational meeting at Base Camp at 3pm, held every day. Here you can learn everything you just read and more, find other solo travelers to join (we picked up a 4th traveler the day before we left), and get some helpful insight about weather and managing your trek.
- Bring some foods that make you happy (hard vegetables to throw in pasta) or some salt and pepper at least! Easy to pack pasta and use instant soups for sauce.
- Bring sandals, or something to put on immediately after you’re done hiking, because we all know how bad your feet stink. Air those babies out!
- Try and book in advance if you can (even if only 3 days), the campsites fill up in busy season. You can book free camps in Puerto Natales (highly recommended) and not have to worry about getting turned away.
- if you have a light hammock system, bring it, use it in camp italiano/torres and enjoy the envious onlookers! Sitting on rocks/logs looses its nostalgia quickly.
- Bring enough pesos for the trek! I’d say at least 80,000 pesos to cover boat/camp (unless you prepay camp, some also take card.. not the boat though).
- Take your sleeping bag for sunrise! Also, don’t forget to look behind you while you’re staring at the Torres, the sunrise is most beautiful on the other side.
- Expect everything you had in mind to change. You’re in Patagonia, and also in Chile. The weather is unpredictable and time-tables don’t mean much, they are on Chill-ean time (except the boat, that leaves on the minute!).
- ENJOY! Do the trek, make friends (you will see the same people every night at camp), and take it all in.
Hopefully that is helpful for everyone, I know its a bit lengthy but it’s everything I wish I knew before I planned! Let me know what you’re thinking of doing or how your trek goes!
Oh, check out the video here ->
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